New Linn-Mar school board members will face rising enrollment

Six candidates vie for 3 seats in the growing Linn-Mar district

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MARION — When Linn-Mar school district voters head to the polls Sept. 12, they’ll be deciding an $80 million bond issue question as well as electing three new school board members.

Five of the candidates — Cara Lausen, 34, John Sauer, 69, Rachel Wall, 31, Bob Gabel, 59 and Bob Anderson, 63 — said they support the bond issue, which would finance two new intermediate schools to house fifth- and sixth-graders, and an elementary school.

Derek Jensen, the sixth candidate, did not respond to requests from The Gazette or attend the newspaper’s editorial board meetings, as did other candidates.

Three of the candidates will be elected to the Linn-Mar school board. They will join incumbents Tim Isenberg, George AbouAssaly, Sondra Nelson and Clark Weaver. Members serve without pay.

The facilities plan that would be funded by the $80 million bond issue also would set in motion a tentative plan to close and repurpose one of the three existing elementary schools, according to district officials.

The five candidates who spoke with The Gazette said they want community input leading up to that decision, but all leaned toward repurposing Indian Creek Elementary School, which is located a short distance from downtown Marion.

“I’ve heard frustration over there being no real, solid plan on what we’ll do,” Wall said. “ … I would want community input, but it has to be a sound decision by the board, and we need to do what’s right the district as a whole.”

The Linn-Mar district is projected to grow by about 180 students by 2021. Anderson, a teacher of 41 years, 22 of which have been in Linn-Mar, said facilities are a “constant issue” as enrollment has increased.

Should the bond pass, with at least 60 percent of the vote required, the board will oversee its implementation.

Lausen said she helped develop the plan on the district’s facilities committee and decided to run for office so she can “carry that work past the bond vote.” Sauer said his 36-year career as a superintendent would lend experience to decisions about facilities.

Gabel, who is a program manager at Rockwell Collins, stressed his experience “doing more with less” financially.

Lausen also praised the district’s finances, pointing out the system’s growth will mean a need for a second high school “eventually.”

“We have to be prepared to ask (for public dollars) again,” Lausen said. “We need to stay on top of maintenance in non-historic buildings so we’re not where we are now, scrambling for Band-Aids. I don’t want future parents to have to do that 25 years from now.”

Candidates who spoke with The Gazette agreed the Linn-Mar district is moving in a good direction, though it faces challenges from legislators’ move earlier this year to strip public unions including teachers of many previous collective bargaining rights.

“We need a balance of educators and community members on the board,” Anderson said. “Collective bargaining changes has rattled the cage. Now the charge of this board is to develop a tool to figure out those processes.”

LINN-MAR SCHOOL BOARD CANDIDATES

Three at-large seats

Bob Anderson, 63, retired music teacher

Bob Gabel, 59, program manager at Rockwell Collins

Derek Jensen, 50

Cara Lausen, 34, office manager

John Sauer, 69, retired superintendent

Rachel Wall, 31, stay-at-home mom

l Comments: (319) 398-8330; molly.duffy@thegazette.com

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